Forensic Psychology Group Dynamics Term Paper

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placement of children and youth within residential group treatment programs group treatment will be reviewed. As will be reflected within the literature review, while there has been little direct attention focused on the use of groups and group treatment within residential placement settings for children and adolescents, there are a number of factors associated with residential placement that may be significant and meaningful to future efforts to further examine group treatment, group dynamics and group living experiences within residential programs. Initially, an overview will be provided of current information available on the use of residential placement as a treatment modality for meeting the service needs of children and adolescents. This will be followed by a discussion of current perceptions regarding residential placement and the problems associated with it. Finally, an overview will be provided of ongoing policy, practice and research issues associated with residential group care.

Overview of the Current Status of Residential Placement

According to Whitaker (2000a), group care services provided for children within residential settings have been described as a component of the child welfare system within the U.S. Such services are designed to provide 24-hour care for a child in a residential facility designed as a therapeutic environment. Within this setting are integrated treatment services, educational services, and group living on the basis of an individual plan for each child who cannot be effectively helped in his or her own home, (or) with a substitute family (Whitaker, 2000a). As further delineated by Braziel (1996), residential treatment centers and community-based group homes most often represent the primary forms of group care offered under the auspices of residential placement. The settings in which such services are offered include community-based apartments, group homes, campus-based facilities, foster care homes and other self-contained facilities, including secure units. Within these settings, as noted by Braziel (1996), typically a range of service are offered and include counseling, education, recreation, health, nutrition, daily living experiences, independent living skills, reunification services, and aftercare/post placement services. There has been an increasing effort to improve the linkages between the child or adolescent in residential care with his/her family and community.

As described by Melton (1998), most often residential placement services are provided under public, voluntary nonprofit, and proprietary auspices, in child welfare, child mental health, and juvenile justice systems, often to the same populations of youths. According to Melton, the divisions existing between such services are largely based on arbitrary regulatory and payment structures rather than real differences in purpose, type of services, clientele, or source of referral. As explained by Whitaker (2000a), while the diversity that exists among such programs are minimal, the children and adolescents receiving services by residential placement programs tend to represent clients from all or most of the major children's service systems (i.e., child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health). Historically, efforts at limiting the use of residential care in one service system area (i.e., child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health) for the purposes of deinstitutionalization most often has been accompanied by an increase in residential placements in another area of the system (Whitaker, 2000a). Thus, as noted by Whitaker, there has been a growing awareness that there is need for the development of a cross-system perspective in relation to residential placement for children and adolescents.

As a review of the literature suggests, it is difficult to obtain accurate population estimates of those children and adolescents placed in residential care within the U.S. On the basis of more recent information, a national study commissioned by the U.S. Children's Bureau provides a total population estimate of approximately 500,000 children and adolescents in out-of-home care in the mid-1990s (USDHHS, 1997). As found within the report provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), the majority of those children and adolescents placed within residential care settings were served in family foster care arrangements in comparison to the approximate one-fourth of all children in out-of-home care who were served in residential group care facilities.

Melton (1998) suggested that such estimates represent an inaccurate accounting of the actual numbers of children and adolescents who are served in residential placement. As further explained by Melton, there is a "hidden sector" found within residential care most often represented by those children and adolescents who are placed within private psychiatric settings as well as those who are in the custody of the juvenile justice system and placed within residential group care settings. As noted by Whitaker (2000a), such findings help to emphasize the importance of the development of an accurate, comprehensive, national, up-to-date database for all children and youths in residential group care.

While children and youth who have been adjudicated within the juvenile justice system have been identified as a "hidden population" receiving residential group care services, information is available that helps to clarify the population estimates of this group. On the basis of information provided by Smith (1998), during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Statistics Division of the National Criminal Justice Information and Statistics Service of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), which later became the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and the Children's Bureau initiated a joint effort to develop and implement a means for obtaining information regarding the census of public juvenile facilities. The resulting census, known as the Children in Custody (CIC) census, included public facilities holding juveniles awaiting court action as well as those already adjudicated. As reported by Smith, while previous efforts to obtain statistical information on children and youth in the juvenile justice system focused only on reception or diagnostic centers, training schools, ranches, forestry camps and farms, the new census also allowed for collection of information on juveniles within detention centers and shelters, halfway houses, and group homes.

Using the information gathered from the CIC census series between 1971 and 1995, Smith (1998) reported that while the numbers of public and private juvenile facilities in the United States have been decreasing since 1987, there were more such facilities in 1995 than there were in 1975. As well, there was an increase in the number of private facilities as compared to public facilities, even though 58% to 63% of the juveniles in correctional facilities were held in public facilities. Reportedly, a smaller percentage were held in private facilities because the majority of private juvenile facilities are ranches, forestry camps, farms, halfway houses, and group homes that generally have smaller populations than the detention centers and training schools that make up the majority of the public juvenile facilities (Smith, 1998).

As reported by Smith (1998), the percentage of all detained juveniles held in detention centers increased steadily from 15% in 1975 to 23% in 1995. The percentage of all private facilities that are ranches, forestry camps, farms, halfway houses, and group homes has decreased from 90% in 1975 to 75% in 1995. Smith indicated that there were 74,270 juveniles in custody in the United States on June 30, 1975 and 107,637 on February 15, 1995, representing a 45% increase. According to Smith, the increase in the number of males held in custody in juvenile justice residential placements helps to largely explain the increase between 1975 and 1995.

As Smith documented, there were only 725 more females held in 1995 than in 1975, while there was an increase of 32,642 males held in juvenile facilities over this same period. Thus, as the data suggested, juvenile female residents decreased from 23% in 1975 to 17% in 1995.

As reported by Smith (1998), the average length of stay for juveniles discharged from long-term residential facilities has also decreased. Approximately two-thirds of the juveniles held in public facilities since 1983 were held in long-term facilities. The average length of stay for those juveniles discharged from public, long-term facilities decreased from a little more than six months in 1986 to a little less than four months in 1995 (Smith, 1998).

Smith (1998) identified other trends that may be significant in the group care of juveniles in residential placement within the juvenile justice system. One such trend is that minority juveniles make up an increasingly larger segment of all juveniles held in custody. As reported by Smith, in 1979, there were 13,752 African-American juveniles held in custody as compared to 43,268 in 1975, representing more than a threefold increase in 15 years. Similarly, in 1979, there were 4,395 Hispanic juveniles in juvenile justice residential programs as compared to 18,653 in 1995, representing a more than fourfold increase. As also reported by Smith, the proportion of African-Americans in juvenile facilities has grown from 28% in 1979 to 40% in 1995. During the same time period, for Hispanics, the proportion has grown from 9% to 17%. According to Smith, these proportions exceed the proportion of juveniles in the general population. In the case of African-American juveniles, Smith reported that the numbers in residential place greatly exceed the proportion of juveniles in the general population. As documented by Smith, Hispanic juveniles age 10 to 17 made up 8% of all juveniles in that age group in 1980…

Sources Used in Documents:


Braziel, D.J. (1996). Family-focused practice in out-of-home care. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.

Burns, B.J. (1991). Mental health service use by adolescents in the 1970s and 1980s. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 30, 144- 150.

Burns, B.J. & Friedman, R.M. (1990). Examining the research base for child mental health services and policy. The Journal of Mental Health Administration, 17 (1), 87-98.

Clemmer, D. (1940). The prison community. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

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